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Letters of a Woman Homesteader (1914)

de Elinore Pruitt Stewart

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Letters of a Woman Homesteader presents an outstanding first-person account of life on the American frontier. Elinore Pruitt Stewart took up homesteading in Burnt Fork, Wyoming, in 1909, to prove that a woman could ranch. Her captivating letters, sent to a former employer in Denver, reveal the isolation, the beauty, and the joy of working the prairie.The basis for the acclaimed movie Heartland, this charming chronicle is part of our vanished past. Stewart's courage and her delight in the world around her cannot fail to capture the hearts of her listeners.… (més)
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nonfiction (letters from early 1900s). use of 'n' word and Negro as vernacular of the day. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
Letters of a Woman Homesteader hits close to my heart. My husband and I farm the land that his grand-parents first homestead in the 1910’s. I was not born here but I immigrated from Brazil close to 25 years ago. It was, and in some ways still is, a very hard adaptation to rural life and Canadian winters. I often think of those women pioneers that braved this land without the amenities I have: indoor plumbing, electricity, cars, phones, internet. Their stories and bravery is still part of the local lore: the neighbor lady who was the midwife; the grandmother who took a hammer and destroyed her brother’s moonshine setup; the feeding of dozens of men while those crews harvested the land; on and on…

Elinore Pruitt Stewart adds another dimension to the experience of these women, that of feminism. Elinore certainly never rationalized it this way, but her approach to homesteading and farming was that it could raise women above the poverty and hard labour of the cities:

When I read of the hard times among the Denver poor, I feel like urging them every one to get out and file on land. I am very enthusiastic about women homesteading. It really requires less strength and labour to raise plenty to satisfy a large family than it does to go out to wash, with the added satisfaction of knowing that their job will not be lost to them if they care to keep it.

Then, in another passage, she says:

Any woman who can stand her own company, can see the beauty of the sunset, loves growing things, and is willing to put in as much time and careful labor as she does over the washtub, can certainly succeed.

In her discourse one can also see the seeds of the more recent trend of returning to nature and agriculture as a mean to connect mankind to the land.

But if the passages I mention sound a bit preachy, the bulk of the letters are a colorful chronicle of the place and people she meets and often befriends. Elinore is poetic at times, describing sunsets and sunrises or early snow, and shows a strength of character to border the insufferable: when no minister or priest was available, she conduct the funeral service for her new-born son.

I am so happy these letters were saved and printed. No, they are not highly literary, but they bear witnesses to a whole generation of pioneers and their boldness.
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
I had never heard of this book before, just stumbled across it while looking for volumes of letters to download from Project Gutenberg. I’m so glad I did. Engrossing, well-written, often humorous letters of a widow who decided to start a new life on the Wyoming frontier. If you enjoy reading letters and don’t mind that key bits of the story are revealed gradually, then I recommend this! I’d certainly read it again—her voice is a delight. ( )
  LudieGrace | Aug 10, 2020 |
What a great collection of letters! Stewart has such a warm tone and such a way with description (amidst all her self-deprecation that she has no skill with language). I get the sense that there is much she isn't saying, but it isn't terribly hard to draw lines in between the missives to her former employer. ( )
  slmr4242 | Oct 16, 2019 |
This was a series of letters written by Elinore to her friend back east. I think there are letters missing because there were big gaps. That being said, it was a better than average book. What I found interesting is that even though married, she had her own claim and worked it with no help from her husband who also had his own claim. Elinore was good friends with Zebulon Pike and traveled extensively, which really wasn't normal for that date and time. The writer had some connection with the Mormons but I was unable to ascertain what that was. 3 1/2 stars 144 pages ( )
  Tess_W | Aug 28, 2019 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Stewart, Elinore Pruittautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Wyeth, N.C.Il·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Dear Mrs. Coney,--
Are you thinking I am lost, like the Babes in the Wood? Well, I am not and I'm sure the robins would have the time of their lives getting leaves to cover me out here.
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To me, homesteading is the solution of all poverty’s problems, but I realize that temperament has much to do with success in any undertaking, and persons afraid of coyotes and work and loneliness had better let ranching alone. At the same time, any woman who can stand her own company, can see the beauty of the sunset, loves growing things and is willing to put in as much time at careful labor as she does over the washtub, will certainly succeed; will have independence, plenty to eat all the time, and a home of her own in the end.
Did you ever eat pork and beans heated in a frying-pan on a camp-fire for breakfast? Then if you have not, there is one delight left you. But you must be away out in Wyoming, with the morning sun just gilding the distant peaks, and your pork and beans must be out of a can, heated in a disreputable old frying-pan, served with coffee boiled in a battered old pail and drunk from a tomato-can.
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Letters of a Woman Homesteader presents an outstanding first-person account of life on the American frontier. Elinore Pruitt Stewart took up homesteading in Burnt Fork, Wyoming, in 1909, to prove that a woman could ranch. Her captivating letters, sent to a former employer in Denver, reveal the isolation, the beauty, and the joy of working the prairie.The basis for the acclaimed movie Heartland, this charming chronicle is part of our vanished past. Stewart's courage and her delight in the world around her cannot fail to capture the hearts of her listeners.

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